Medical Student Mental Health and Stress

Mental illness among medical students is not something that can be ignored.  Med students suffer a lot of stress due to all the work they have to get done.  This is a very demanding career path.  Med students spend a lot of time away from their family and friends.  And they have pressure to always be on top of their game. 

To ensure that med students become the best physicians it is important to keep tabs on their well being.  Most importantly monitor their mental health. 

Mental Health Conference

A National Conference on Medical Student Mental Health and Well-Being was held for 2 days by Weill Cornell Medicine. More than 350 med students, researchers and educators gathered to discuss the issue of mental health in students. 

The educators posed the question, “do medical students have it all?” They all acknowledged how medical students spend a lot of time away from family and friends. Meaning they are separated from their social support. And have to find a way to stay motivated and in the right mental space to get all the work needed done. 

It was agreed at the conference that med students are an “at risk” population of suffering from mental illness. Such illnesses include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicide

What Can Be Done?

At the conference, there were several solutions that were discussed. They include:

Creating a Healthy School Environment

The students were encouraged to make sure that the school environment promotes good mental health. They were encouraged to always talk about their issues. And to make the school a place of positive vibes. 

Mentors and counselors should be people that are easily accessible by the students. So they can help them whenever they have issues. 

Talk About Mental Illness Freely

Medical schools were encouraged to talk freely about mental illness. And to report on anonymized collected data related to mental illnesses. This way, they will be able to de-stigmatize mental health issues. 

And people will not shy off from getting help. Because they will see others like them who spoke out and got help. 

Medical Schools to Shift to A Pass/Fail Grading System

Medical students always have pressure to get high grades. And this grading system has been proved to cause mental illnesses among students. Because they are always working hard to get certain grades which are the school’s requirements. 

But if the med schools shift to a pass/fail system they will take a lot of pressure off the students. They will not have to stress about scoring certain marks. All they have to do is study to pass. 

USMLE Announced Policy Change for Step 1 

These new policies will continue to enable the USMLE program to provide high-quality assessments for the primary user of exam results (state medical boards) while also addressing other considerations, such as exam security and unintended consequences of secondary score uses. The secondary uses of Step 1 scores for residency screening, in particular, have been the focus of extensive discussion over the past year at the FSMB and NBME, within the USMLE program, and with multiple stakeholders within the broader medical education and regulatory communities.

“These new policies strengthen the integrity of the USMLE and address concerns about Step 1 scores impacting student well-being and medical education,” said Humayun Chaudhry, DO, MACP, President and CEO of the FSMB. “Although the primary purpose of the exam is to assess the knowledge and skills essential to safe patient care, it is important that we improve the transition from undergraduate to graduate medical education.”

Read the announcement here

More Studies on Mental Illnesses

There should be more studies on mental health illness. Also, students should have courses on mental health. This will help create more awareness of this problem among the students. And they will know how to prevent such illnesses and how to help others suffering from them. 

Suffering from mental illness is not a shame. And medical schools should work to make sure students are protected from these illnesses. To make sure they become the best physicians they can be.